Thursday, 7 February 2008

Business Roundtable vs the planet, part 2

Listening to radio reports of the drought (1) conditions in the Waikato, which are so extreme that farmers are shooting stock, I was struck by another flaw in the report (2) trumpeted by the Business Roundtable, suppsoedly showing how a meaningful carbon mitigation policy will harm the economy without dealing with the issue of carbon emmissions.

It constructs a 'business as usual' scenario, based upon New Zealand not adopting any measures to deal with CO2 emmissions. I appreciate this is only for comparative purposes - to show how the difference between taking no action and taking action. But neither scenario, as far as I can see, takes into account the impact of the phenomenum creating all this fuss - climate change.

Without the impact of climate change being taken into account, the report is meaningless - just some figures that show that if New Zealand decides to unnecessarily burden its economy, its economy will be burdened. No shit, Sherlock. I could have told you that. But positing a 'business as usual' scenario that doesn't bear any resembleance to the putative reality of 2025 is not making a useful contribution to the debate.

A major distorting factor in the analysis was the assumption that major competitors would not undertake any carbon emmission regime. The reality is that once the economic impact of climate change is grasped, measures will be taken - because the the consequences of taking no action will be more grave than the consequences of taking action.

It will be argued, I suppose, that the report is intended to show the costs of carbon mitigation to the economy, and the incompatibility of high growth. But even then, it is a meaningless exercise because it is as far removed from reality as the further excesses of artisitc criticism. It shows what could happen is a situation that does not and can not exist. So it is irrelevant.

I can't avoid a sneaking suspicion that it was set up, by the Business Roundtable, to produce this result: "Adolf? Roger here. Can you analyse the economic impact of carbon mitigation? No, don't take the effects of climate change into account. Yes, I understand that if we assume climate change isn't ahppening then the idea of a carbon mitigation scheme is ludicrous. Just assume everything continues as it is for the next fifteen years. The report's ready? Lets have a look. Oh, see - if we lumber ourselves with said carbon mitigation scheme, the economy suffers. If we don't, everything is fantastic."

To make the report meaningful, it would also have to provide scenarions outlining the likely effects of a global carbon mitigation process - all economies taking hits. It would also have to look into the economic consequences of climate change. Excluding these essentials, it is worthless, except as propoganda.

The NZBRwaves a fig leaf about, claiming they aren't really opposed to the idea of carbon mitigation, just bad carbon mitigation: "The business community takes the threat of global warming seriously and is not generally opposed to action to put a low initial price on carbon" (3). Which, in translation, means they'll happily rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic or, (more appropriately) fiddle while Rome burns - or any other cliche describing lack of effective action you can think of.

It is classic greenwash. They want to have a scheme which they can point to and say, "Look, we're doing our bit for the environment! Don't say we're onl interested in the money." Though part of me wonders if some sage heads at the NZBR have realised there potential to make money out of carbon mitigation and trading schemes - as long the schemes aren't robust enough to actually affect the greedy capitalist bastard's horded millions the economy.

1 - 'Waikato declared a drought zone,' unattributed One News report, 7th of February, 2008.(
2 - 'Carbon Mitigation Scenarios,' a report by Adolf Stroombergen of Infometrics, 5th of February, 2008. Available through the NZBR website. ( For my earlier comments, see the post 'Business Roundtable oppose saving the planet,'(
3 - 'Carbon Neutrality Goals Costly and Unattainable,' NZBR press release, available on their website, 5th of February, 2008. (

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